Most of us hate criticism. We like being surrounded by yes men. Quite often I see photos of politicians, especially state ones, with the chief minister standing erect surrounded by ministers who are literally leaning over him or her. The chief minister is obviously a person who will not tolerate criticism, but unfortunately that is what causes their downfall.
They cannot tolerate holding a mirror to themselves.
Two brothers fulfilled their mother’s last wish by hiring a small plane to carry them out to sea where they might scatter her ashes. One of the two pilots opened the cockpit door and the brothers immediately emptied the contents of the urn into the wind. But a stiff breeze blew the ashes back into the cabin, dusting the four startled occupants. A moment’s stunned silence, and then one of the young men sighed, “Just like Mom – she was always all over everyone.”
Maybe she was a critical person. But children, especially, often feel as if parents are “always all over them” when all those parents usually want is for their children to be the best they can be.
A humorist once said, “Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger.” And Norman Vincent Peale adds this: “Most of us would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” Few of us enjoy the experience when others point out areas for improvement. After all, who wants to hear what they don’t want to hear?
Criticism is hard to take and we all would opt for praise over criticism every time. I hold that encouragement is often more effective than criticism. I will work harder and with more enthusiasm when I am encouraged, and I know I can get the best out of others if I spend more time pointing out what they did right than what they did wrong.
But that said — honest feedback is a necessity. To shy away from fair criticism, spoken by someone trusted, may be a great mistake. Those who are wise will occasionally seek out somebody they trust to hold a mirror before them in order to see themselves more accurately. To know the truth and to see ourselves clearly, as reflected in the eyes of a friend, is an immeasurable gift.
And here’s the surprising truth. As you gaze at yourself in the mirror, you will see far more than your flaws. You also will see the beauty that is uniquely you; beauty that others see clearly and you may hardly know exists. That is also part of the truth about you.
If you’re courageous enough, allow someone to hold a mirror before you. Plato says, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” But a life properly examined makes living worthwhile.